Archive for June 2008

Vespers, SS. Peter and Paul, and the Holy Cross (Colloquium Post)

June 29, 2008

A forewarning – these are loosely connected thoughts…

At the Sacred Music Colloquium, I chose to be in the the polyphonic choir directed by Dr. William Mahrt. While I would like to say that the decision was reached with the knowledge of which music I wanted to sing, and the understanding that he was a brilliant director, it was based mostly on the thoughts that our main performance wasn’t until Friday and that music for Vespers had to be easier to sing than the ordinary of the mass written by Victoria, Morales or Monteverdi. Basically, it was a gut decision based on fear, although with a true desire to learn more about singing the divine office.  

For those who have never been to the Sacred Music Colloquium, attendees get to choose a Gregorian Chant choir (or schola) to be in, and a polyphonic choir. The former is based on your experience with chant, so I chose the fundamentals of chant, or the beginning level. For polyphony, you basically choose which main performance you want to sing (one of the polyphonic masses, or the Vesper service). As I mentioned before, I’ve never really sung sacred polyphony before, and have never really sung in a choir since the sixth grade. I’m what you call a musical enthusiast; I’ve had much more training on instruments than on voice.

But as is want to happen when the Holy Spirit is involved, my hurried choice ended up a blessing. Dr. Mahrt is a kind, gentle soul whose love and passion for the liturgy and sacred music shine forth even as he would walk down the halls of the Mundelein Center, where we rehearsed. From the permanent smile etched on his countenance, you could tell he was, as the Colloquium advertised, in musical heaven. But he is a brilliant mind as well, and while we rehearsed, he not only assisted us in our singing, but stopped at various points to explain the finer points of how the words and music we sang fit precisely to the form and function of the various points in the liturgy. For an example, I recommend seeing his article on “Bontà delle forme”, or how the form of the various chants of the mass suit the liturgical function, and yet also express uniformity.

So it was my pleasure and to my spiritual benefit to sing in his group. I also met some wonderful fellow tenors in my group, or should I say baritones attempting to be tenors. We sang with full heart and voice (any Fr. Rocca fans out there?) for Vespers of the Holy Cross from the old breviary. I also saw this as providential, since I am a product of a Congregation of the Holy Cross education. O Crux ave, spes unica! You can check out sound files here

So how am I connecting this to SS. Peter and Paul? Well, you may have noticed a successor of Peter, and that of Andrew, celebrating Vespers together yesterday (First Vespers for the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul). The Divine Office is a beautiful treasure of the Church, and I urge everyone out there to be familiar with it, learn how to say it, but also how to sing/chant it! We are entering the Pauline year, so there’s no better time to start.



Hollywood wisdom and unintended consequences

June 26, 2008

It is a rare occasion when one can glean a bit of wisdom from a Hollywood cartoon, but the latest movie from Dreamworks, Kung Fu Panda, in fact was able to offer me some insight to my past. The particular quotation I’m thinking of here is “One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.” This brings to mind the whole idea of unintended consequences.

From about fourth grade to sixth grade, I was in our grade school choir, as well as our band program, the latter of which I continued throughout high school. But in the sixth grade, I decided I had had enough of choir. The songs we sang were lame, folksy american tunes. At the time, I didn’t think much about it. Around the same time period, I vaguely remember watching some Disney movie where two boys of different races become friends through singing sacred polyphony (and the blues). I didn’t make any connections at the time, and I’m sure I had no concept of what sacred polyphony was, and only a little of what the blues was. 

But looking back (and really the Colloquium brought this out), I imagine the tunes we sang in grade school choir were chosen because someone thought they would be more interesting to kids, and easier to sing, and thus make kids more interested in music. I don’t think it worked.  It certainly didn’t in my case, and not for many others. In fact, it was quite the opposite – I was turned off to choral singing for quite some time.

The Colloquium was the first time I really sang polyphony – and on the first day I was quite scared that I would not do very well and ruin the group so to speak. I can’t say that I did really well – but I was encouraged by the beautiful music, the passion and voices of those around me, and, to paraphrase Kung Fu Panda again, the pure, legendary awesomeness of Dr. Marht, the legendary sacred music director whose conducting skills are the stuff of legend. I think our choir did pretty well in the end, and although I missed several notes throughout the week, it was an amazing experience, and I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much.

But all of this I think ties back to the liturgy as well. Many people thought that moving to pop music in the vernacular within the Church was a good idea and that it would keep the church in the modern age and prevent people from being disinterested in the liturgy. I don’t think it worked. 

Plenty more where that came from…

June 25, 2008

More sound files are available from the Colloquium at the Musica Sacra forums here.

Hat tip again to Aristotle at The Recovering Choir Director and a big thanks to him for recording many of these.

I have a couple very short videos to come…if I can convert them okay. Hopefully more posts tomorrow. I’m still recovering -more from the shock of going back to work – we’re pretty busy.

Art deco chapels at Loyola University – Chicago

June 25, 2008

My wife is an architect; I have been well trained. If ever I go somewhere by myself, my chief responsibility is to take a ridiculous amount of photos of the churches I visit.

So for your enjoyment, some nice examples of art deco sacred architecture (mixed with some gothic elements). The main chapel at Loyola, Madonna Della Strada, speaks for itself. The smaller chapel is the Stella Maris Chapel, which is inside an approximately fourteen story art deco building that used to be a women’s college. (Click the picture to see all the photos). 

Madonna Della Strada, Loyola University Chicago

One final note – while I have been trained to take photos, I haven’t been trained to take them well necessarily, at least, not as well as my wife.

Post-Colloquium – brevis

June 24, 2008

I have returned from the Colloquium, and I have a lot to write – although all my thoughts are still coalescing at the moment (and I’m trying to survive going back to work). But Aristotle (who by chance happened to be my roommate) at the The Recovering Choir Director has an .mp3 recording of a version of Tu Es Petrus by Palestrina. It was sung at one of the masses at the Colloquium. Check it out here!

from the colloquium…a collection of neumes

June 20, 2008

It’s now day four of the colloquium and this is my first post. Well, I’ve been busy!

Since i’m typing this on my phone, I’m going to keep it short, but here are some notes about my experience so far.

I’ve rarely been at such beautiful liturgies, and never on weekdays! The music is great of course, but the masses have also been extremely well celebrated in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms. The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius have been helping out at the conference, and they know they’re stuff! We heard a lecture this evening by their founder, and his story and that of the parish was truly fascinating. Hopefully more on this later.

I definitely feel I’m making progress with chant, and I’m really hoping I can take back with me to South Bend what I’ve learned, and get others interested in singing it.

I didn’t embarass myself singing polyphony(it wasn’t first time) I sincerely thank God for this, as I was pretty nervous there for a bit.

I attended my first EF missa cantata – more thoughts to follow on this beautiful experience.

And finally, my one negative experience – at&t. Something’s going on with them. Until today, my average call to my wife has lasted 45 seconds before being dropped. Is anyone else in the Chicago area having issues?

Many more thoughts on the Colloquium will be forthcoming, but I at least wanted to post an update. Also, my apologies for any typos.

Light blogging

June 14, 2008

I’m getting ready for the Sacred Music Colloquium 2008, so I may not have much to post over the weekend. I will do my best to blog from my iPhone at the Colloquium. We’ll see what I can do!